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Why Upselling is Possibly the Most Foolish Approach To Sales Ever




I try to read everything that comes my way in regard to selling techniques and philosophies, especially when it appears in optometric/optical trade magazines and you’re the target. More often than not, these how-to-sell articles are written by opticians and not by professional salespeople.

It drives me just as crazy when this happens as it does you when the general public bypasses you to purchase from one of the online retailers.

I was never trained nor worked, specifically, as an optician, but in order to have my EyeCoach workshops CE approved, I took the ABO test. I wanted to see if, with my years of experience in the industry observing countless opticians, I could pass without studying for it. To my surprise, I did. Does that mean that I can teach a course or write an article on basic optics? I guess it does. As an optician, do you want me to? No, you do not! And, by the way, neither do your customers.

With that said, you’ll understand why my blood began to boil when I recently read an article, by an optician, on the virtues of upselling. Argh! Upselling, and not just in our industry/profession, could be the most foolish approach to sales ever!

Before I go on, let me put this optician’s point into context. She was noticing that in her office patients were getting sticker shock at the cost of eyeglasses. It was driving sales down. In my opinion, that’s a great observation. This practice has to compete with those promoting low prices, just as everyone else does. However, instead of seeing what the challenge was, she, like most, thought it was about price. It hardly ever is, even when the customer says it is.

So, what is the challenge?


Sales were being driven down because people were walking out to purchase eyewear, somewhere else more inexpensively. That’s called “capture rate.” When your capture rates are low or diminishing, so too are your sales.

This happens because most offices, including this one, fail to establish worth before telling their customers the price. (I hate the word “value” because it’s misused so much to the point that we associate “value” with low prices.)

“Upselling could be the most foolish approach to sales ever.”

If I told you my consulting fees, without first establishing worth, without establishing how my consulting would specifically be of benefit to you, you wouldn’t have sticker shock. You’d have a heart attack!

So, in misinterpreting the real obstacle, this optician advised her staff to start at the bottom, with the basics and upsell … add on, add on, add on! When I say, “add on, add on, add on,” what your customers hear is: “cha-ching, cha-ching, cha-ching!”

Upselling is the ultimate bait-and-switch. When you tell a customer, “Yes, we can put you in a pair of glasses for $100” but then after adding on — lens materials, coatings, this, that and the other — the final price is $425, you’re going to have some pretty pissed off people.


The solution? First, start with the very best products you have to offer to meet their needs. Then create the worth by finding your customer’s pain (read my previous INVISION columns). If the customer still objects to the price, respond with, “Other than the fact that this is more money than you thought it would be, are there any other reasons why you wouldn’t want these glasses?”

You will probably get a “No.”

Your response should then be, “I completely understand. Would you like to explore a more inexpensive option?”

Then, start downselling! Start chipping away at the features (and therefore the price) by asking, “Of the AR coating, the thickness/thinness of the lens, the this, the that … which is something you can live without?”

Robert Bell has trained optical salespeople for over 30 years throughout North America and has created The EyeCoach Selling System specifically for ECPs. In addition, he is head of Vision Services at Project Homeless Connect. To ask a question or make a comment, email him at

This article originally appeared in the June 2016 edition of INVISION.




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